Mtn. bikers brace for 24-hour trial
August 21, 2003
As Garry Morgan pedaled to the end of another lap in last year’s 24-hour race at Northstar, he overheard a nearby team voicing their frustrations. It was 2 a.m., and the team had already completed half the race, but the argument that arose ensured they wouldn’t finish.
“They just packed up and left,” said Morgan, who will race in the event with a five person Northstar team this weekend. “Some team’s just breakdown like that.”
After all, 24-hours of pedaling split among five people at the maximum puts strain not only on the body but also the mind.
“The big challenge is the back-to-back laps you do,” Morgan said. “You do an hour of riding, get a little rest and go at it again. By the time it’s three in the morning, your mind starts telling your body its time to sleep. You’ve got to overcome that and push on.”
According to Morgan, 95 percent of the team’s do.
“It’s hard on the body and some teams just don’t know what they’re in for,” Morgan said. “But if you know and have done it, you’re in for a good time.”
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This year close to 100 teams will compete in the 24 Hours of Tahoe mountain bike race at Northstar. The race will push the teams to the limit, as solo, duo, four and five person teams race to complete the most laps before time runs out.
The teams will traverse an 11.8 mile lap on some of the toughest, rockiest and most technical cross-country terrain Northstar offers. Each rider must complete one full lap before trading off with a fellow teammate.
“Riding anaerobic for an hour is the hardest part,” Morgan’s teammate Renee LaChat said. “You are gasping for air the whole time. In the dark, the course is especially intimidating.”
Once the sun goes down, the riders will light up with handle bar or helmet mounted halogen lighting systems that will guide them through the unlit course until dawn.
“It becomes hard to see because of the dust reflecting in the light,” LaChat said. “Believe or not people are very spread out though so it works.”
The race will end at noon on Sunday and an awards ceremony will follow at 3 p.m.
“It’s like when you break up with someone,” LaChat said of the feeling at the race’s conclusion. “You only remember the good parts. You forget all the cussing and swearing you do while you’re doing it.”
This year event organizers are offering extra incentive for competitors. The winning Pro/Am teams will receive a cash purse while amateur teams compete for other prizes.
The event came to Northstar six years ago after a stint at Donner Ski Ranch. Morgan talked organizers into shifting the venue because of Northstar’s strong cross-country courses.
“We also like to have events that involve locals and bring new people to the area,” Morgan said.
Spectators are invited to join in on the off-road bonanza this weekend by hiking or riding the chair lifts for views of the race.
“It takes a passion for biking because at 2 in the morning it pretty much sucks,” LaChat said. “In the end though, it’s a great time.”